Automating Everything

EDGE: You just finished hosting your user conference in Toronto. What are your customers telling you the priorities are?

NISSAN: For a lot of them, it’s budgets. They are being asked to do a lot more with a lot less. And they are being held much more accountable on the financial

side. Nowadays, a CIO may even report to a financial person. Rather than having technology people at the top, our customers have financial people at the the top.

EDGE: How do you prove the benefits of technology or at least that it can pay off?

NISSAN: We have a very good ROI story. Enterprise integration is our target market and typically our customers have something in place already. They already have the benefits of automation but we can actually get them a return with one year. Financial people like this. It has to be real savings that it is bringing in. We use references for that: We can prove some of the reasons for cost reduction using our software.

EDGE: So exactly where are these cost-

savings being realized?

NISSAN: In many different areas. First, we make complex enviroments very simple. Data centres are a mix of applications and technologies, people have to learn different things, they have to try to integrate them. Any tool that provides a single platform for a complex environment makes things easier. We have single management points, and you can choose where you want to host this management point. The fact is we can manage the entire enterprise through a single server. There are always varieties of hardware and operating systems, and a single ERP system might even be hosted on a variety of platforms. We find our customer base has a wide variety of platforms and the more you can do to simplify that, the more errors can be reduced.

EDGE: What are some of the other efficiencies CIOs are looking for?

NISSAN: We have a unique event-driven architecture which allows our software to reduce the latency between the end of one process and the start of another. With our products, it can be a second or less. We can run a sequence of jobs in a matter of minutes and what that does is makes the process run faster, making better use of their systems. It gives them time to meet their service level agreements if there is a failure.

EDGE: All companies appear to be centralizing, are these things you mention become bigger issues as well?

NISSAN: Yes. It used to be a user would buy an application, and stick it on a server and ‘Bob’s Your uncle’ as they say. What they found out is that you have these servers all over the place, they start needing to put in controls and processes. When you have thousands of servers it becomes that much more difficult to manage, therefore server consolidation.

EDGE: You would also have underutilized hardware resources as well?

NISSAN: Yes, you would. By doing consolidation, you are able to run a smaller number of larger boxes and share resources much more easily. Our software can help you with load rebalancing between hardware platforms. Some planning has to go into this beforehand, but once you have done that, the automation system will look after that.

EDGE: The other aspect of this is the huge variations on demand of your system.

NISSAN: There are several things here that are actually merging. What you are referring to is business services management and it’s important because a data centre serves an internal customer base. Internal customers have certain expectations and these tools are very useful to provide information on how well the data centre is being managed. It can also give you early predictions of errors and potential problems. We are able to detect critical paths within workload and we prioritize what is on the critical path. We can warn people that potential problems may arrive, and people can actually develop policies so that service levels are being met.

EDGE: Is quite simply downtime still the enemy of most businesses?

NISSAN: It still depends on platform. In the late ’90s, the five nines (99.999 per cent up-time) was very important, and what we find from the very largest customers is that unscheduled downtimes are small. Most outages are scheduled because they need to drastic maintenance on the hardware or the software. Uptime and continuity are important but people seem to be achieving that much better. It’s not such an issue as it used to be.

EDGE: Three of our banks experienced major failures caused by glitches. How would you address that need?

NISSAN: There are many things that can cause a problem. A simple error, before long, can become quite major. The more repeatable processes you have in place, the more you can use software to reduce manual intervention and the more you can reduce complexity. Errors will always happen, because as soon as you have people in the loop, you have errors. You have to expect and understand that. So what you have to do is put things in place that mitigate these errors and automation is very useful in this area.

EDGE: The vision has always been of a “”lights out”” data centre where as much of managing your systems is automated as possible. Is this feasible and how far do you see this going?

NISSAN: We are already seeing different aspects of this. There are countries in Europe where you are not allowed to have a night shift and so they prepare everything during the day and systems are managed all night. You can only go in on an exception basis. We have seen customers who have employees only at one data centre and managing everything else remotely.

EDGE: And this is all happening at the same time we are entering a 7 X 24 world where systems are always running?

NISSAN: That’s true. You have Web access from anywhere in the world so you need to have systems always operational. And that’s why it is important to have as much automation as possible.

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